Over the past decade and a bit, the resourcefulness of British music, particularly Black British music, has made it the cultural powerhouse it is today. Rappers and producers from the UK are now setting pace across the globe, but a big part of that success is owed to the tireless creatives working behind the camera lens.
A select few have broken through and become stars in their own right; Daps has directed videos for Migos and Cardi B; Kaylum Dennis is the director of choice for Stormzy and stands as one of the most in-demand directors going; Rollo Jackson is now an international heavyweight making documentaries and short films; Luke Biggins is creating visuals for everyone from Dizzee Rascal to Morcheeba; and Chas Appeti and Capone’s decade-plus of output has become the gold standard in music vids. But what about the next wave?
There’s a highly prolific wave of directors working right now, and key to their success is keeping their ears to the ground and elevating emerging talent with slick, high-end videos to help them secure the attention they very much deserve. They run the full gamut of what a music video can be, from understated performances out on the block to 10-minute epics with special effects, story arcs and character development. In the past, a lot of these decisions would have been dictated by major labels, but now the power is in the grassroots and the risks taken by this new gen are giving us some insane treatments—just look at Teeeezy C’s “Lagga” video for M1llionz or the “AVEN9ERS” video for Unknown T, KO and V9.
Here are 11 music video directors setting new levels in British rap.
Some of the artists she’s directed: Ms Banks, Giggs, Skepta, WSTRN, Chip, M Huncho
If you see Ashleigh Jadee’s name in the credits, expect nothing but greatness. Starting out as a photographer back in 2010, it wasn’t long before the London-based creative found herself in the director’s seat, working alongside her Channel U heroes in Giggs, Skepta and Chip. Known for her hawk-eyed attention to detail and well-thought-out storylines, Jadee is capturing the scene with pure style and flair. “I grew up listening to grime, locking into Logan Sama’s Kiss FM show every Monday night and watching people I followed on MySpace do sets,” she tells Complex. “I always loved rap, but more American rap because that’s what I was exposed to as a child. When Channel U arrived, though, I was obsessed; I watched it just as much as MTV, and I watched MTV a lot! To me, it felt like home and something that wasn’t so far away, and seeing that grow into what our scene is now has been a blessing. I feel proud to be doing what I do.” —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
Some of the artists he’s directed: Digga D, Central Cee, Fredo, K-Trap, D-Block Europe, RV
Myles Suave has filmed, directed and edited visuals for everyone from DBE and Fredo to Lil Baby and Jay Critch, with his work picking up heat across the pond. The West London native has been supplying some of rap’s biggest names with attention-grabbing, hyperactive music videos since 2015; garnering millions of views over the years, sometimes in just 24 hours, his work is simple yet effective and always bright and fun-filled. He’s helped to bring out more personable sides in rappers too—as seen in the visuals for Digga D’s MOBO-nominated “Woi”, RV and Headie One’s “Match Of The Day” and new-kid-on-the-block Central Cee’s “6 For 6”. You can spot the work of Suave from a mile off, and that’s not always an easy thing to achieve. —Mimi Itseli
Some of the artists he’s directed: SL, M1llionz, Central Cee, Unknown T, M Huncho
Teeeezy C makes motion pictures, and we’re quickly reminded of the fact with his opening credit in every intro. Beginning his creative journey as a graphic designer for the likes of J Hus and C-Biz in the early 2010s, a chance meeting with the Mixtape Madness team led to him being the visual director for their Kenny Allstar-hosted series, Mad About Bars. Outside of his work with Mixtape Madness, Teeeezy C has grown to become one of the leading videographers in the scene, known for giving us cinematic experiences in just under five minutes. From Digga D’s 2000s-inspired “Chingy” visuals to mobbing out with M1llionz in Kenya for “Lagga”, he has set new levels for the game at large. “A song can take you from your current reality into a whole new story and vibe,” TC says. “When I watched ‘Alright’ by Kendrick Lamar, I was like, ‘Yo! This shit is serious.’ The way Colin Tilley blended music with cinema definitely resonated with me—I felt like I was in the trenches of Compton, absorbed in Kendrick’s reality. Seeing that from early let me know the heights to which I wanted to take it.” —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
Some of the artists he’s directed: DC, Knucks, 808INK, Loyle Carner, Dave, J Hus
Dir.Lx has been in high demand for a little while now and he’s built up an astonishing CV in that time. For many, it’s his work on J Hus’ breakout anthem, “Lean & Bop”, that first grabbed their attention. For others, it’s his long-standing creative relationship with Dave (Lx has been behind the camera for the bulk of Dave’s hits, including “100M’s”, “Samantha” and “Thiago Silva”). But by now his list of credits is so expansive that settling on a signature video depends entirely on who you ask. Since working with Dave, he’s notched up credits with Young T & Bugsey, Potter Payper, 808INK, Sinead Harnett, DC, Knucks, MoStack, Geovarn, Ebenezer and NSG. If there’s one thread running through his varied output, it’s a cinematic stillness. You can see it in the scenes of Dave and SG Lewis stacking shelves in the “100M’s” video and, more recently, in the warehouse-set visuals for DC and Knucks’ collaborative cut, “Bobby & Rowdy”. —James Keith
Nathan James Tettey
Some of the artists he’s directed: Dave, Fredo, Ghetts, Headie One, Stormzy, Ray BLK
Nathan James Tettey has become something of a household name after getting a shout-out by Headie One on his “Only You Freestyle” with Drake last year, the visuals for which he co-directed with Drizzy’s go-to, Theo Skudra. Even before that, Tettey had been known in the industry for his crispy clean, often hard-hitting visuals for the likes of Dave, Stormzy and Emeli Sandé. However, this career path was one that happened accidentally. Back in 2017, having worked on Dave’s team as the visuals commissioner, he found himself directing the video for “Question Time” when the original director had double-booked. That soon turned into a passion and Tettey has continued to create iconic visuals for Santan, including his number one collab with Fredo, “Funky Friday”, and countless others. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
Some of the artists he’s directed: J Hus, Ramz, Shaybo, Chip, Aitch, Not3s, MoStack
After quitting his job as an estate agent and picking up a camera, Kirx has blossomed into one of the most sought-after directors in the game. Born in the UK, he made his start in Antigua filming events and, once he returned to British shores, he switched his focus to music videos, taking an unorthodox approach. “I went on Link Up TV’s channel, got every artists’ Twitter handle I could and tweeted 650 of them and the rest is history,” Kirx says, and he has since captured visuals for the likes of J Hus, Aitch, Chip, MoStack and and Not3s. His videos always carry a silky, refined presentation, from the grittiness of Shaybo’s “Streets” and J Hus’ Daily Duppy for GRM Daily, to lavish numbers like “Underneath” by Ramz, all with the aim of visualising his love for the scene. “When I started going to events like Plan B and Visions and they would put on UK rap, I would get gassed,” he says. “Shooting sick visuals for the same artists I listened to with the mandem became the goal and, from there, it was a natural progression to where I am today.” —Yemi Abiade
Some of the artists he’s directed: Morrisson, IVD, Wretch 32, Young Adz, Yxng Bane, NSG, Loski
With over nine years of experience in the field, Kevin Hudson has developed a deep love for visual storytelling; from directing NSG’s MOBO award-winning video for “Lupita” to Ivorian Doll’s breakout “Rumours” and Morrisson and Loski’s “Bad Guy”, he’s currently in very high demand. The London-based director began his journey when the UK rap scene was just starting to gain traction on a commercial level, so the timing for him to show what he’s made of could not have come at a better time. “I started doing my thing when YouTube was just becoming a thing,” he tells Complex. “I was inspired by all of the low-budget content being produced at the time—from sketches and online series to early UK rap videos. Also, being that I’d always been a creative person doing 3D design, websites etc., it was a fairly easy transition.” With bigger names such as Sean Paul, Spice and Beenie Man now on his CV, the sky is the limit for Kevin Hudson. —Mimi Itseli
Some of the artists they’ve directed: slowthai, Skepta, A$AP Rocky, Joy Crookes, Azekel
Northampton-based outfit THE REST, comprised of filmmakers Alex and Lewis, has served as the go-to directorial team for slowthai since the rapper’s arrival in 2017, embellishing his maverick-like qualities and funnelling them into thrilling visuals for “North Nights”, “Doorman” and the more recent “Mazza”. With a strong familial bond—Lewis and slowthai are cousins—a working relationship was a natural step. “The first time we picked up a camera, we were shooting him,” says Alex. “Before anybody knew any of us existed, we would put together cover art, music videos and think up social media campaigns. So, there’s a built-in trust there. We know how he needs to come across and he knows what we need from him.” Previously, the directorial duo regularly shot flicks for Kojey Radical, including the seminal visuals for “GALLONS”, honing in on their ability to produce truly memorable videos. Their portfolio has now expanded to include work with Skepta, A$AP Rocky, Joy Crookes et al., building strong bonds with the artists they work with in the process. —Yemi Abiade
Some of the artists he’s directed: Potter Payper, OFB, Pete & Bas, Kwengface, V9, Unknown T
East London’s Yukki is turning heads with his cinematic visuals, taking UK rap and its various offshoots into new creative spaces. He’s been behind the camera for Potter Payper’s “Slumdog Millionaire”, V9’s “Evil” and OFB’s “Ambush”, to name just a few, accumulating over 20 million views to date. Yukki represents his city to the fullest by embracing its diversity and culture, which has always inspired his craft. Having started out by shooting freestyles and short films for his old school mates, this developed into him working on-set with Link Up TV, and the rest is history. If it’s not a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-inspired clip for Potter Payper, he’s showcasing his love for Marvel with the masked-up stars of drill. Yukki continues to break barriers by going against the grain in a climate where predictability is rife within the scene. —Mimi Itseli
Taz Tron Delix
Some of the artists he’s directed: Headie One, Kojey Radical, Oscar #Worldpeace, Novelist
Drawing inspiration from the early days of MTV Base and Channel U, Taz Tron Delix’s come-up involved capturing DIY videos and animation with his friends before graduating to proffesional music vids. A self-confessed music head, his skills have seen the likes of Stormzy, Headie One, AJ Tracey, Novelist, Kojey Radical and Oscar #Worldpeace enlist his services to devastating effect. Taz has easily one of 2020’s finest videos on his CV in Headie One’s “Ain’t It Different” with AJ Tracey and Stormzy, and he’s also captured some underrated visual spectacles in Oscar #Worldpeace’s “No White God” and Kojey Radical’s “25”, showcasing his ability to tell endearing stories with his art and presenting the crème de la crème of the scene in an extraordinary light. “I’ve just got so much love for the UK music scene,” he says. “Teenage years of consuming drum & bass, UK garage, grime and UK hip-hop has made it a part of my DNA, so it’s only natural that I want to contribute in my own way to push the culture forward.” —Yemi Abiade
Some of the artists he’s directed: Stardom, Rimzee, 67, Skore Beezy, OFB
Over the past few years, Ade OG has clawed his way to the top through sheer grit and hard work. His ongoing creative partnership with Link Up TV is ingrained in UK rap culture and the videos he’s created are as essential to the story of Black British music as any platform. This year alone, he’s crafted gems for OFB, Stardom, Rimzee, 67 and Skore Beezy, to name just a few. With Ade’s visuals, it’s all about the details, keeping things relatively straightforward so as not to distract from the song itself. Take his most recent vid for “Let’s Go” by OFB’s Akz. For the most part, it’s straight barring, but with a light touch he adds a few comic book-style graphics and the whole thing leaps out of the screen. That’s a running theme with Ade; using a less-is-more approach with details like FX and lighting to make crisp, eye-popping videos without over-complicating things. The list of artists who owe Ade OG a debt of gratitude is endless and without him, the music video aesthetic of UK music would look very, very different. —James Keith